The story opens on the banks of the River Euphrates, where a Roman cohort is building a fort to protect the eastern outpost of the Empire from Parthia in the 1st century AD. When the Romans are massacred by a Parthian force, it can only mean war. The situation is made worse by near-open revolt in nearby Palmyra, a nominally independent City State but one which both Rome and Parthia wish to annex and control. The king’s youngest son, Artaxes, has declared himself the next King of Palmyra and with his followers has managed to besiege King Vabathus in the citadel. Help must be sent to the King immediately and before the Parthians can come to the aid of the rebel Prince, but the Roman army is scattered, and it will take time to re-assemble it. But there is one cohort that is ready to march – the Second Illyrian. Together with a cohort from the Tenth Legion the relief force sets out for Palmyra under the command of Macro and Cato. It is no easy task they have been set, and Simon Scarrow tells a powerful story of the march and its outcome. It is full of detail and a real page-turner.
I could not put this book down and fully sympathise with Bernard Cornwell in his comment ‘I really don’t need this kind of competition’. This is the first book I have read by this author, but it certainly won’t be the last. Highly recommended.